Bedfordshire Ghosts

This is a selection of the many tales of ghostly activity and supernatural occurrences
associated with Bedfordshire as recorded in books, newspaper cuttings, pamphlets
and other materials in Bedford Central Library, Local Studies Collection.
The stories included in Bedfordshire Ghosts are based on eyewitness reports or
legends that have been passed down through the ages, as a result they are all open
to interpretation and it is up to the reader to judge the true factual nature of these
Front cover image: detail of St. Mary’s Church, Clophill.
© Bedfordshire Libraries, 2006
Page No.
Highway men
Historic buildings and locations
Holy places
Roads and lanes
The world of the supernatural is very various and it comes as no surprise that ghosts,
ghouls or apparitions can appear in all shapes and sizes - even animals - and it
seems that Bedfordshire is rich in such sightings.
A member of staff at the Bedford pub The Bullnosed Bat, now known as The
Square, reported seeing a ghostly cat appearing in his bedroom, an unnerving sight
considering the doors and the windows were locked. However this was a mild
occurrence when you consider the frequent reports of Bedfordshire’s own Demonic
Dog, or a “Shuck” as it is known in the general folklore of this country.
Black Shuck is a common term for apparitions of dogs which occur in East Anglia.
The name Shuck is believed to originate from two sources - as a deviation of Shukir,
who was the dog of war in Norse mythology, and Scucca, from the Anglo-Saxon
meaning demon. Considering the terrifying descriptions of Shuck that have been
recorded, both these definitions are apt. The favoured haunting places of such
beasts are believed to be lanes, graveyards and gallows sites.
Luton’s own gallows site – Galley Hill – was the location of a demonic dog sighting
in the 18th century. A fierce storm descended on the town which resulted in the
gallows being struck by lighting and catching fire, the blaze spread creating an
inferno which engulfed the site. At the heart of this nightmarish scene eyewitnesses
reported seeing a large black dog seeming to dance in the flames in celebrant glee
as the corpses of condemned criminals burnt. With the dying down of the fire the
dog was heard to utter a piercing howl, and, as characteristic of other Shuck
sightings throughout history, vanished! The dog was often seen in the same area
after the event, blocking the paths and roads, its fierce red eyes confronting any
traveller who dared to journey there.
The paths of local villages have also seen appearances of hellhounds of similar
description. Footpath number 4 in Kenworth, which runs between Common Road
and Hollicks Lane, has hosted appearances by a ghostly one-eyed black retriever,
and in Millbrook a dog “as big as a calf” with the glowing red eyes associated with
Black Shuck was said to have terrorised a young woman to such an extent that she
died three days after the encounter.
Not all the reports of ghostly dogs in Bedfordshire have the same sinister air or
appearance as the Shuck sightings. A lady was cycling from Pavenham when a
large white dog suddenly appeared in front of her. Unable to stop her bike in time the
cyclist actually passed through the animal.
Ghostly animal manifestations are not just restricted to dogs. Eastfields Corner in
Riseley was the setting for a strange encounter involving a seemingly supernatural
horse. A local farmer was walking along the road when he heard the sound of a
horse galloping towards him, yet no sign of the beast could be seen. The next instant
the hedgerow crashed with the sound of something passing through it, and the
farmer felt a rush of cold air as if something had just rushed past him. Again the
sound was real, but the source of the noise was not visible.
Phantom horses have also been recorded at Carlton Hill in Chellington. A cyclist
was pushing her bicycle up the hill when she was confronted, much to her surprise,
with two horses speeding down towards her. The cyclist quickly moved over to the
side to allow the horses to pass. Yet when the lady – fearing an accident because of
the charging beasts – went back down the hill the horses had vanished leaving no
A similar sound of hooves has been heard along Sandhill Close in Millbrook. Such
hooves have been attributed to the legendary highwayman Galloping Dick, whose
hauntings will be described in a later section.
We all love a good film. Enjoyable though a trip to the cinema can be, beyond the
glitz, the special effects and popcorn, something sinister can stir in those dark
Though now demolished, Luton’s historic cinema The Alma had a string of
supernatural occurrences attached to it. The building, on the corner of Alma Street
and New Bedford Road, was said to be cursed due to ill feeling towards the project
when people’s houses and cottages were knocked down to accommodate it. The
cinema staff spoke of a strange atmosphere that permeated the rear of the building –
an atmosphere of oppression and unease. The stairs in particular seemed to possess
a dark intent – people felt that there was something on the stairs with them and a
feeling of being followed. With the cinemas demolition in the 1960’s a disturbing
artefact was found – that of a blood encrusted cap belonging to a workman who had
allegedly fallen to his death during the building’s construction. Was it this workman’s
spirit which was responsible for the uneasy atmosphere? Was he haunting the
corridors of the very building where he spent his last hours?
Luton’s current cinema, Cineworld, also has a haunted air. Both staff and customers
have said that strange noises have been heard as well as inexplicable changes in
temperature and shifting, unaccountable shadows.
Bedford’s Cineworld cinema seems to attract its fair share of ghostly activity too, the
majority of which seems to centre on Screen 4 and even the toilets near said screen.
Several witnesses have reported seeing a monk or a hooded figure in both the foyer
and the toilet. Indeed, one young girl claims to have seen a ghostly monk in the toilet
mirror. A sight that terrified her so much that she locked herself in a cubicle!
Screen 4 reportedly suffers from frequent temperature drops; strange scratching
noises and the sound of jangling chains have been heard resonating through the
space. There have also been a few accounts of ghostly activity manifesting itself in
more physical ways – cleaners at the cinema have had apples and sweets thrown at
them from an unknown source, customers have complained of the feeling of hands
brushing against their legs as they sit watching a film, and seat 8 in row A refuses to
stay upright no matter how many times it is adjusted by staff.
The history of haunting in this area does not restrict itself to the cinema, before the
multiplex Newnham Swimming Pool once stood on the site and that too had a history
of supernatural activity, primarily involving the lockers, which would open and shut by
With so much activity it is necessary to examine the causes. The ground where the
cinema now stands was once Newnham Priory – an ancient wall still remains around
the back of the Aspects Leisure Park – which could explain why monk-like or hooded
phantoms have been seen. Construction workers also discovered a burial ground on
the site. Have the dead, disturbed from their slumber, chosen to linger at the cinema?
On a sadder note, a young man once hung himself from a tree in the grounds of the
old priory on the exact spot where Screen 4 now stands. Could this be another
source for the strange variety of happenings recorded at this most unlikely of haunted
Highway Men
Many lanes and roads of this county are rife with the tales and legends of highway
men who plied their dreaded trade upon the rich and wealthy of the day. Although the
time for such men has passed, it seems that their presence is still felt in the guise of
apparitions and ghostly figures.
One of the most notorious highway men in the history of Bedfordshire – both as a
historical figure and as a ghostly entity – is Black Tom. So named for his dark
complexion and hair, Black Tom terrorized Bedford with his unique brand of devilry
before meeting his end at the gallows on Union Street in 1607. He was buried at the
junction of Tavistock Street, Union Street and Clapham Road, with a stake driven into
his heart to prevent his evil spirit remaining in this world. But, despite these methods,
he did return, and terrified people began to witness his apparition stalking the area
near his burial ground.
The 1840’s saw a number of Black Tom sightings; the fear that they engendered
caused many a soul to stay indoors at night. The last reported sighting of Black Tom
came in 1963 when he was seen by several people staggering along Regent Street
in Bedford. The apparition was black faced with a head displaced in such a way as to
suggest hanging. If this sight wasn’t frightening enough, the witnesses watched in
terror as the figure slowly faded and vanished.
Another notorious Bedfordshire highway man was Galloping Dick, who was
renowned for robbing the stagecoaches which travelled along the Woburn Road.
Dick was a wretched figure who, because of his outlaw ways, lived by the sandpit on
Millbrook Hill. The ghost of Dick has been attributed to eerie events in the
picturesque village of Millbrook. Apart from the aforementioned sound of his steed’s
hooves down Sandhill Close (see chapter on ghostly animals), Dick also haunts
Station Road in the form of a headless horseman.
The most notorious of highway men, the legendary Dick Turpin, also has connections
with Bedfordshire, in particular with Aspley Guise and the Old Manor building.
Around 1730 the owner of the manor is said to have murdered his daughter and her
lover in a fit of rage after discovering them together. The father then concealed the
bodies in a cellar cupboard. Turpin’s part in the tale begins when he and his gang
arrived at the Manor to burgle the building, Turpin – expecting to find gold and silver
in the locked cupboard – found the two bodies and blackmailed the guilt stricken
father into letting him use the manor as an occasional hideaway. It is believed that
Turpin is the ghost often seen around the building, complete with highwayman’s
uniform of cloak and tricorn hat, skulking in the shadows, hiding from the law after a
night of banditry on the Leicester Road.
Historic Buildings and Locations
The eternal feature of any ghost story is the haunted house. Cobwebbed corridors
and creaking floorboards are staple requirements of the world of the supernatural.
While the majority of historic buildings can be awe inspiring due to their graceful
architecture, such facades can also hide darker, mysterious histories waiting to be
Ampthill Castle was originally built in the fifteenth century and was situated on land
now known as Ampthill Great Park (an historic site itself as it was designed by the
genius "Capability" Brown). A commemorative cross to Henry VIII's wife Katherine of
Aragon now marks the exact location of the castle. Although the castle has now
gone, a residue of its former days is apparent in the ghost of a knight that has been
sighted emerging from the area marked by the cross. Descriptions of the knight have
varied throughout the years; some have witnessed a clearly visible armour clad figure
riding a magnificent horse, whereas a policeman in 1965 witnessed a more vague
shape - but a horseman none the less. The majority of accounts have testified to the
figure vanishing near a stream.
The ruinous structure of Houghton House (also in Ampthill) played host to a phantom
horse and carriage that was distinctly heard but not seen. The building was originally
built in 1615 for the Countess of Pembroke and is believed to have been the
inspiration for the "House Beautiful" in Bedfordshire visionary John Bunyan's famous
work The Pilgrim's Progress. It was in 1915, during the First World War, that a
munitions worker was walking home when she heard a sound of hooves so intense
she had to throw herself into a ditch for fear of being trampled. As she lay on the
ground a thundering sound of hooves and jangling harnesses rushed past on the way
to Houghton House, yet no great coach was visible to account for the din. A recent
visit to the house by Bedfordshire author and paranormal writer Damien O'Dell
featured several spirits and presences being detected by mediums. It would thus
seem that the great house is infused with both history and spectres!
The South Bedfordshire village of Barton-le-Clay is home to a mill site which has
been in use since the Domesday Book. The area, now known as Waterside Mill, has
two ghosts attributed to it. When the building was a restaurant, John Duggan had
just locked up and was about to drive away when he noticed a beckoning figure at
the window. Fearing that he had locked somebody in John returned but found
nobody there. A thorough search of the premises yielded no other person. John had
a similar encounter a week later; again he was about to drive away when his car
headlights illuminated the window to reveal the beckoning figure. This time he
managed to see that the figure was an elderly woman with long grey hair and
incredibly bony hands. The second ghost has been heard but not seen. A visitor to
the restaurant reported hearing a persistent baby crying, yet there were no children in
the building to account for this.
Flitwick Manor, a large Georgian building, now a hotel, is over three hundred years
old. With such a vast span of history it is no surprise that supernatural activity has
been reported there. One guest was awoken by something heavy on the end of the
bed. However, after turning on the light, he found nothing there. A short time later the
man went back to sleep. About fifteen minutes later, alerted by a strange shuffling
noise that appeared to be coming from the foot of the bed, the guest turned the light
on again and was met by the sight of a woman sitting at his feet and staring out of
the window. After speaking to the spectre and getting no reply the man watched in
amazement as the woman gradually disappeared.
The hotel receptionist also saw an elderly lady in one of the rooms; this lady also
vacated the room mysteriously. The receptionist managed to describe the figure as
wearing a long Victorian dress and a small white cap and, sadly, crying. This ghostly
Victorian lady was also reported to have appeared to the family of the hotel’s original
owners. The family were gathered together for Christmas when the lady entered the
room and walked across it oblivious to what was going on around it. It is believed that
this apparition could possibly be the wife of John Thomas Brooks. Mr Brooks and his
family once lived in the manor and it was here that his daughter died unexpectedly at
the age of 26 in 1848. John Brooks’ wife was believed to have never recovered from
the shock of this death and lived the rest of her life as a sad figure, succumbing to
senility in her old age. This story would certainly account for a forlorn lady staring out
of the window or crying.
Like Houghton House, the sound of a phantom horse and carriage has been heard at
Kempston Manor, albeit with more sinister undertones. The manor is now offices but
in the nineteenth century it would have been a busy family house. The story tells how
one Christmas Eve the owners were returning from a ball and their young son ran out
to meet the carriage and was knocked down and sadly killed. It is believed that every
Christmas Eve the sound of the horse and carriage can be heard as well as the
screams of the boy trampled by the hooves.
Odell is the setting for a tale of the supposedly diabolic Sir Rowland Alston. The
Odell family had their ancestral home on the site of Odell Castle - where they had
lived for over 300 years - and the majority of the family members were pillars of
community and well respected. Sir Rowland was the exception. Apparently a
depraved and wicked man - his crimes included brawling, gambling, drunkenness
and cavorting will ladies of ill repute - who had sold his soul to the devil, so the story
goes. Rowland’s notoriety was such that even after death his presence still cast a
black shroud over the village. His ghost was seen to walk through walls and tree
trunks in broad daylight; he further terrified the villagers by riding his ghostly steed
inside his ancestral home, an act that would leave demonic hoof marks on the floor.
Such examples of supernatural terror eventually led the people of Odell to raise a
mob and exorcise the foul spectre. His spirit was relegated to the murky depths of a
pond on Odell Wold where he remained for a time, only to emerge from the pond a
hundred years later ready to begin anew his tyranny. The devil hadn’t forgotten the
pact Alston had made when he was alive and thus was waiting for Sir Rowland when
he escaped. According to folklore the devil chased Alston to Odell’s All Saints Church
and, fearing his prey had escaped, shook the church in a fit of rage and left five giant
finger marks on the porch. It is believed that since that day Alston’s ghost has
restricted its appearances to every 100 years, the next visitation scheduled for 2044!
A burial mound - believed to date from around 1500 BC - in the village of Shillington
plays host to the ghost of an ancient ruler. The mound – also known as Knocking
Knoll – is home to a phantom which knocks on the side of the mound, listens
carefully, and then vanishes. It is believed that the spectre buried some treasure at
the location and is periodically checking that it is still safe and hidden.
A communicative "foreign" ghost has been witnessed in the South Bedfordshire
village of Studham. The spirit has been described as a short man with a beard
dressed in a blue suit with a tall hat. This ghost is encountered on the common where
he walks up to people and asks them a question. Nobody knows what the question is
because he speaks in a foreign language which none of the witnesses have been
able to understand. With the realisation that his latest enquiry has not been met the
ghost suddenly vanishes.
Thurleigh Airfield has a rich historical heritage due to it once being the home of the
306th Bombardment Group, United States Air Force, during World War Two. This
group holds a unique place in military history as having the longest length of stay at a
UK base (September 1942 – December 1945) and also, unfortunately, as having the
highest loss rate in the Eighth Air Force (between October 1942 and August 1943).
The officers' mess is believed to be haunted by the ghost of an American airman. In
the early 1990s a civilian staff member of the Ministry of Defence witnessed the door
to the reading room opening wide and then closing all by itself. Another incident in
the same room saw a light bulb fall from its fitting and land on the coffee table next to
the man's hand. This was then followed by the feeling of another presence in the
room. The corridors have also echoed with the sound of footsteps when there has
been nobody there to make them.
Local historian Keith Paull has researched the history of the 306th Bombardment
Group. While using the car park at the Electronic Training School, Keith detected a
strong smell of frying bacon and eggs, an aroma which became very strong in one
area of the car park and then seemed to suddenly disappear. It later transpired that
the location was originally used by the airmen as a billet for their mess tents, thus
many a hearty breakfast would have been prepared there. One of the ghost stories
told to Paull was experienced by Ministry of Defence Policemen who had to patrol the
airfield and concerned a haunted hut. The policemen were doing their rounds when
they noticed that one of the huts was lit up; looking inside they were met by the sight
of a wartime aircrew playing cards. Upon further investigation the hut was empty and
in darkness.
The village of Willington is home to a manor house that was once used by Henry
VIII and has undergone constant rebuilding in its long history. It was during
refurbishment in the early twentieth century that a skeleton was discovered bricked
up behind a wall. Some believe this gruesome discovery was linked to the hauntings
which have been associated with the building. Though a ghost has never been seen,
numerous unaccountable noises have been heard including heavy footsteps and the
sound of bells.
Woburn Abbey has a long and distinguished history. Originally a Saxon hamlet in
969, Cistercian Monks founded the actual abbey in 1145. The house as it stands
today dates to 1744 and is home to the famous safari park as well as a rich tradition
of ghost tales.
With its origins as an abbey Woburn has a couple of reported monk apparitions. One
phantom apparition appeared in the crypt and it is believed to be the spirit of Robert
Hobbes, a former Abbot who was hanged due to his opposition to Henry VIII’s
marriage to Anne Boleyn. A monk clad in brown has also been seen standing
between the pillars on either side of the entrance to the sculpture gallery; the monk
was then said to disappear. A number of doors in the building are prone to opening
by themselves – a fact attested to by jazz legend Acker Bilk, who was staying at
Woburn on the night of such spooky activity. A recent haunting has entailed the
ghost of a former servant to the seventh Duke, a servant who met a murderous end.
One night burglars broke in and assaulted the servant and locked him in a cupboard.
With the man disposed of the thieves went about robbing the house, when they had
finished they drowned the servant in the lake. A number of people have reported
feeling the sensation of a wet hand passing across their faces. Is this the lakesodden spectre of the servant making his presence felt in the very rooms where he
Holy Places
Churches and holy buildings have always been staple locations for events of a
supernatural nature. The close proximity of graveyards could account for the number
of ghostly occurrences reported at such locations. Also churches are regarded as
peaceful places, sanctuary from the busy world, and thus can attract a reflective
spirit. Whatever the reason for the number of sightings in this county the holy
buildings of Bedfordshire appear rife with mysterious happenings.
Bedford’s Methodist Chapel on Newnham Avenue is said to be home to a dapper
spirit who has been seen standing quite clearly by the Chapel resplendent in tweed
clothes of a 1920’s cut. The ghost is reported to walk by the chapel and then vanish.
Another ghost was witnessed at the same location in the middle of the 20th century.
This time the ghost was seen walking along the back of the building. A suspicious
witness followed the man only to see him walk through the wall leaving a puff of
smoke behind him. It is possible that these two apparitions are the same ghost. Both
cases have seen the figure vanish, and also the second ghost was reported to have
been well dressed, although not in tweed.
Also located in Bedford is Sister’s House, a former nunnery next to St Luke’s Church
on St Peter’s Street. In 1997 a member of staff from the Pilgrim’s Housing
Association (who owns the building) was awoken by the feeling of a heavy weight on
the end of his bed. When he looked he was met with the figure of a nun sitting there.
As if this wasn’t enough to startle the man, the nun then slowly passed along the
room and vanished through the wall.
Dunstable is also home to a number of ghostly apparitions, particularly by the Priory.
One such ghost is thought to be a former prior who is occasionally seen walking
around the building eight times in a day, each walk in accordance with religious ritual.
The area opposite the gates of Priory Gardens was once home to another monastery
in Dunstable, this time of the Benedictine order. A Bedfordshire archaeologist was
staying in a caravan on the site while undertaking excavation work. One night he
awoke to discover that his caravan was shaking. He went outside to investigate and
came face to face with a hooded monk wearing the typical habit of the Benedictine’s.
The man ran back to his caravan and left Dunstable the next day!
The Churches in the villages of Stevington and Millbrook also have their own
ghostly characteristics. Stevington's St Mary the Virgin plays host to a shadowy
spectre in a long cloak and hat, while St Michael and All Angels in Millbrook once
echoed with the sound of groans and whipping noises.
Perhaps one of the most notorious churches in Bedfordshire is St Mary's Church in
Clophill. The ruins attracted notoriety in the 1960s when an alleged ritual took
place. Strange symbols were daubed on the walls. The grave of an eighteenth
century woman had been broken open and her bones were found laid out in a circle
within the church and her skull impaled on a railing. Many paranormal investigations
have taken place in the location, all of which have commented on the dark and
oppressive atmosphere that haunts there.
In terms of specific ghosts, the church is believed to be visited by a spectre which the
locals call “Sophie”. A coffin bearing the name Sophia Mendham was discovered in
the nave of the church. Sophia died in 1893 and she is presumed to be the source of
the haunting.
Further ghostly tales associated with the church concern two close friends, George
and William, who joined the Air Force during the First World War, the latter becoming
a pilot and the former an air mechanic. After a dangerous mission, William’s
damaged plane crashed into the ground and caught fire, George ran to help his
friend but sadly both men died in the endeavour. It is believed that George’s spirit
remains in the church graveyard looking for the resting place of his friend.
Chicksands – built for the monastic Gilbertian order – is another Bedfordshire
building with both a holy and a ghostly pedigree. Two cases of the Priory haunting
can be traced to the First World War when the property was in the hands of the
Osborne family (later becoming Osborn). Annie Stamp, a maid, was walking to the
King James Room when she witnessed a tall lady dressed in white flash past her. A
more sinister occurrence at the house in the same period was the discovery of a
dead man found outside the Priory. The man’s black hair had been turned white and
his features were etched in terror leading many to believe that he had been scared to
During the Second World War Chicksands became a Signals Station for the Royal
Air Force and was again visited by strange phenomenon. Another female presence –
this time dressed in black with unkempt hair partially obscuring a wrinkled crone’s
In the 1950’s the Priory gardener was in the greenhouse – an area where a number
of graves were excavated – when he noticed a greyish shape move along the path,
the shape having vanished by the time the gardener came out to investigate. A few
years later in 1954, another female apparition was encountered. Clasping a
notebook, the ghost was discovered at the end of an RAF officer’s bed. Three years
later another member of the RAF had a more violent encounter with one of the Priory
phantasms. While asleep the man was clawed on his left side and then dragged by a
ghost which, despite such violence, had a face that smiled in a friendly manner. The
spectre then vanished emitting a strange cry.
In recent years the Priory has come under the ownership of the Defence Intelligence
and Security Service. Due to the organisation's sensitive work the scope for further
paranormal research in the building is extremely limited. Despite this, occasional
occurrences have been reported such as strange white lights and the sounds of both
children’s laughter and music from a harpsichord drifting through the empty rooms.
Local Bedfordshire historian Roger Ward has written extensively about Chicksands
Priory and its history including a volume dedicated to the hauntings - The Ghosts and
Tunnels of Chicksands Priory. Ward's output can be found at Bedford Central Library
and is recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject.
As all the above stories illustrate, Bedfordshire’s holy places may continue to present
us with a rich variety of strange and awe inspiring activities.
Hospitals are not one of the usual locations that spring to mind when considering the
paranormal, yet there have been several occurrences of a ghostly nature that involve
hospital environments.
The south wing of Bedford Hospital has been the stage for a number of reports
including eerie footsteps and unsettling presences. In 1972 a trainee nurse on
Russell Ward saw a pretty girl wearing a long dress and a long white coat walking up
the stairs. Another member of staff also saw the girl and both nurses watched the
stranger go into the toilet – from where she never emerged. Upon investigating the
toilets the two women found only a distinct cold spot. Both nurses also agreed that
the figure seemed to be gliding. Another strange occurrence came from Shand Ward
– the distinct sounds of elderly footsteps were heard, yet the only people in the ward
were younger, more mobile people.
Fairfield Hospital in Stotfold was originally known as The Three Counties Asylum
until the 1960's. Though the site is now being renovated as part of the Fairfield Park
development, there are many stories of hauntings from the time of the building's use
as a hospital.
Mary, a female nurse, reported a couple of things happened to her at Fairfield. She
would notice how the kitchen door handle would move whenever she was alone in
the room, when Mary would go out into the corridor to investigate the culprit was
nowhere to be seen. Once, again in the kitchen, Mary was making hot drinks for the
rest of the staff. Having forgotten one of the orders she asked, "Did you want tea or
coffee?" to which a voice replied "Tea, with two sugars". Yet the staff member
wanted coffee with one sugar and hadn't actually replied to Mary's request. There
was no one else in the kitchen to account for the mysterious voice.
Another female member of staff, Jenny, witnessed a number of strange events during
her 15 years of working at Fairfield, including wheelchairs soundlessly moving of their
own accord, windows which were locked being unlocked while nobody else was
around, and the sound of dragging feet from an otherwise empty room. Jenny also
witnessed a number of apparitions during her employment at the hospital. She
noticed a man walking along the drive wearing the green staff uniform. Yet when
Jenny looked again the man had vanished. Another vanishing man was witnessed in
1996; he was seen early in the morning and then was gone!
Strange occurrences at the hospital were not just restricted to staff, vehicles have
also been affected. An ambulance driver reported that her vehicle had moved on its
own fifteen feet across the car park – despite the fact that the engine was off, the
handbrake was on and the car park was flat. Whether such activity will cease now
that the hospital is being made into flats remains to be seen. Could it be possible that
the occupants of Fairfield Park may have a few unexpected guests when they move
Our history continues to inspire and influence our modern lives. It is in the antiquarian
world of museums that our collective pasts can be encountered and re-lived, and it is
also in such reflective and nostalgic spaces that numerous ghostly or supernatural
events are enacted.
Luton’s Museum and Art Gallery in Wardown Park has been the setting for a ghostly
manifestation, although the last recorded sighting occurred in 1971. The museum,
once a Victorian house, was used during the First World War as a military hospital,
and it was here that reports emerged of a female figure clad in grey appearing to the
nurses and the wounded soldiers. When the building became a museum the sound
of footsteps could be heard on the back stairs – these footsteps usually occurred
early in the morning or in the evening, times when there was nobody in the building
to make the sounds. In 1971, again in the evening, two engineers were working on
the heating of the museum when they too heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
They saw a woman wearing a dark dress with a set of keys hanging from her belt.
The lady turned, went back up the stairs and couldn’t be found. When the engineers
talked to the caretaker he assured them that nobody else was in that area at the time
of the visitation. Was this the same ghost which used to appear to the nurses and the
soldiers in previous years? The lady is generally thought to be the spirit of a Victorian
housekeeper haunting the building where she used to serve.
Bedford’s Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Museum – which was also a Victorian house
- has been the locale for a number of paranormal events witnessed by both staff and
visitors. A lot of these events seem to be poltergeist in nature. The door of the ladies
toilet, (similarly Bedford Cineworld also suffers from a haunted convenience), a
heavy door shut on its own, much to the surprise of the museums secretary. The
museum curator was also the victim of unaccountable phenomenon. A ladder was
moved from where she had left it and a set of dummies had been rearranged in a
straight line. Such mysterious occurrences are not just restricted to staff. Visitors in
the Nursery have seen cupboard doors closing by themselves, a clock falling, and
pages of music on top of the piano were seen to be turned as if invisible hands were
leafing through the manuscript. The Hexagonal Gallery was the scene for a bowl of
oil moving on its own. The bowl slid along the table and rested at the edge before
rocking back and forth!
Although there are many similar reports of activity in the museum – falling portraits,
electrical equipment mysteriously malfunctioning – some actual spectres have been
recorded in visitation to the building. An unknown man in a dark suit has been
witnessed, as has a man in a bowler hat looking as if he had just emerged from the
1930s. The library within the museum plays host to a ghostly stable boy who has
been seen browsing the bookshelves. The entire museum seems to be a fascinating
place, a doorway into the past that some presences don’t want to leave behind!
If you mention pubs and spirits in the same breath it is likely that alcohol intake be
blamed as a possible cause for the experiencing of paranormal phenomenon. Yet
inns and public houses have been the stage for a number of strange events
throughout both history and the county.
Bedfordshire paranormal writer Damien O’Dell, in his study Ghostly
Bedfordshire....Reinvestigated – A Haunted History makes several interesting points
regarding the association of ghosts and pubs. O’Dell points out that inns were
frequently used to take the bodies of murder and accident victims as hospitals were
not in existence or if they were, not very widespread. Pubs often had a room
reserved for the laying out of bodies before burial. Another fact is that after the
church the pub was usually the oldest building in the town or village, and as such has
a long historical lineage. All the above suggest reasons why the departed may linger
in such establishments. Pubs are also usually places of good cheer and good times.
Why shouldn’t ghosts return to places that may well have happy connotations for
The King's Arms in Bedford plays host to two ghosts. The spectre of an old man has
been seen in the cellar and is believed to be responsible for such mischievous antics
as throwing beer barrels and taking the beer taps apart! The second ghost hasn't
been seen, but has been heard to walk upstairs and is just as prone to mayhem – it
has even been known to throw nails at customers in the bar.
Beeston's The Cross has a number of poltergeist activities attached to it. Instances
include whisky bottles falling off the shelves, chalk levitating from the snooker table,
beer and larger barrels being tampered with, and customers becoming trapped in the
toilet when the doors inexplicably locked themselves.
Haunting of such extremity doesn't seem to occur at The Golden Pheasant in
Biggleswade, although unknown footsteps have been heard as has a phantom
vocalist singing in the bar.
A young ostler – a stable hand employed at an inn - haunts The Falcon Inn in
Bletsoe. The story goes that the unfortunate lad fell from the hayloft and died. His
ghost is often seen in the pub, generally in the kitchens, and is believed to be
responsible for a number of items going missing on the premises.
A nautical theme permeates the bar at The Five Bells in Cople as it is haunted by a
sailor. The sailor sits by the fireplace smoking a clay pipe and has been described as
wearing his hair in a pigtail. Sightings of this maritime spectre are a common
occurrence with a previous landlady having seen him frequently during her twentythree years at the pub.
Dunstable has a number of pubs as well as a number of ghosts haunting them. The
Black Horse is no longer in existence but in its time it suffered from the usual activity
that seems a part of haunted pubs. Items were often moved or went missing and the
lights would frequently go off and on. A ghost was actually seen during the pub’s
history; the figure stood by the bar and was dressed in Civil War era clothes. The
barmaid had cause to remember this spirit, as he didn't have a head!
A stable boy with an injured hand haunts another of the pubs in the town –The
Victoria. The stable block is at the back of the pub and it is here that the ghost has
often been seen. It is believed that the boy injured his hand in the stable door, a
wound that would have prevented him from being able to work.
The White Swan is home to a spirit that has given the ghost tale a more modern
twist. Security cameras monitor the bar in this establishment, and on a number of
occasions a figure has regularly been seen on the screen walking through the empty
bar. Yet when the tape is played back the figure is not on the film.
Former pub staff can also return in ghostly form to their previous workplaces. The
Oakley Arms in Harrold is visited by a landlord from the 1930s and 40s. Dan Orpin
has appeared to drinkers many times, he is either seen walking through the pub or
standing by the bar smoking and drinking.
Ghosts stir regularly in the Houghton Conquest pub The Knife and Cleaver. It is
reported that almost everyday staff feel a draught brushing past them when there is
nobody there. One barman was particularly surprised when the pages of his
bookings diary started turning over of their own accord. The feeling of fear was
heightened when he saw an unknown hand appear over his shoulder.
Leighton Buzzard has a couple of haunted pubs – The Bedford Arms and The
Buckingham Arms. The former is frequented by an old woman who is in the habit of
peering over people when they sleep, while the latter establishment is visited by a
troublesome spirit which slams all the doors and runs up and down the stairs.
The Cork and Bull in Luton is unique in its haunting in that there has supposedly
been physical interaction between the customers and the ghost of a lady called Ann.
It is believed Ann was murdered in the pub and thus remains there. Her antics have
included moving things, throwing stools across the room and shaking tables. Ann has
been described as being all white and some customers have reported sitting and
talking to her without knowing that she was a ghost. In response Ann has often
touched these individuals as they talk.
Another Luton pub also has a tragic death associated with it. The Four Horseshoes
originally burnt down in 1876; the owner died in the blaze and his charred body was
found clutching the cash box containing that night’s takings. The man obviously
thought more of money than he did for his own safety and the sound of coins being
counted can often be heard resonating from the cellar of the now rebuilt pub. With
this sound gusts of cold air have been felt even on the warmest days.
The site in Northill now occupied by The Crown was once a monastery belonging to
The Order of the Knights Hospitallers. It is no surprise to learn that ghostly monks
have been seen on the premises. The sons of one of the landlords remembered
seeing a ghostly figure draped in black walk up the stairs and then vanish.
Customers have also seen a monk-like figure drifting across the car park.
The obligatory grey lady has been spotted in The Cross Keys at Pulloxhill. It seems
this particular spectre favours sitting near the fireplace as she has been seen there
on numerous occasions. Customers feel very uneasy in this spot; some even refuse
to sit near it because of a strange atmosphere that pervades there. A paranormal
investigation at this location in 1999 resulted in reports of strange shadowy figures
walking across the bar as well as a blue light which moved along the floor. A male
ghost has also been witnessed wearing a brown suit from the 1930s. This man has
since been recognized as a former landlord who died in the pub.
Similar to the above pub, The Fox and Hounds in Riseley is also home to a female
ghost which haunts the fireplace in the lounge. The ghost – believed to be a nurse
who was run over and killed by a coach, her body then being taken to the nearest
pub – has a habit of turning the lights on and off, creating footstep sounds on the
floors above and, most unusually, coughing.
The Old George in Silsoe has the usual signs of a pub haunting – unknown footsteps
heard and strange presences felt. In 1959 the landlady at the time was so troubled by
spirits that she called in an exorcist. Such measures were to no avail as the ghost
continued to bother the inn by consistently slamming the doors. An actual figure has
been sighted at the inn. In the 1960s, a workman looked up and saw a young woman
dressed in grey and wearing an impressive hat stroll past. The ghost is believed to
be that of Lady Elizabeth Grey and her tale is a tragic one of forbidden love. Lady
Grey met and fell in love with the young coachman at the inn. As her father would
never have approved of such a relationship, she hid at the inn for two weeks in a
desperate attempt to keep her love alive. However her father found out and as
Elizabeth and her beau fled their coach crashed into the lake drowning the
occupants. Thus Elizabeth still lingers at the location where she spent her last days.
The picturesque village of Toddington is home to The Bell which is haunted by the
ghost of a landlord’s daughter. The girl, when alive, was prone to fits and tantrums
and she died in the kitchen from a seizure brought on by one such fit. The ghostly
activity now takes place in the same kitchen, pots and pans have been thrown across
room and pictures have been known to jump off the walls, seemingly ripped off by a
severe rage.
In the same village stands The Bedford Arms which is visited frequently by a
seafaring ghost christened “The Captain” by the staff. He is often to be heard walking
about upstairs creating clear, resounding footsteps. Descriptions of the ghost
describe him as a big man with a beard dressed in a red and blue tunic. Other
instances of strange activity include doors opening by themselves and one of the
barmaids being tapped on the shoulder by the mysterious spirit.
Another establishment called The Bedford Arms was to be found in Woburn. Now
know as The Inn, the premises have been plagued by two spirits. The first is of a
man sitting by the fireplace smoking a clay pipe; he has been described as wearing a
hat and a smock and is also joined by his dog! A white lady is the second spectre
also known to stalk the inn. A tall lady that seems to manifest in vaporous, steam like
The Chequers Inn in Wootton is home to a couple more examples of the
paranormal. The majority of staff have been witness to a vanishing customer who is
seen from the corner of the eye and then disappears. Glasses have also fallen from
the shelves for no reason, yet have not smashed when they hit the floor.
Judging by all these examples, it would seem that pubs offer more than just thirst
quenching, with a variety of strange phenomenon being enacted before and after
time is called!
Roads and Lanes
The roads and lanes that zigzag the county may seem inconspicuous spaces, just
passages that take us from A to B, or otherwise picturesque locations for a stroll.
However, such areas have an historical lineage and can seem to leave their marks in
the most mysterious of ways.
Clophill’s Great Lane – the name given to the road that runs from Haynes Church
End to Clophill Road – is haunted by a ghostly horse and rider. The figure has been
described as hooded like a monk and carrying a lantern. In 1969 a newsagent was
delivering papers when he saw the eerie glow of the lantern. Stopping his car, the
newsagent saw to his amazement, the rider appearing out of the dark proceeding to
pass straight through the car. A family who lived near the same spot are said to have
moved because they were upset by the presence of the ghost. It has been suggested
that the rider is on his way to Chicksands Priory (hence the monkish appearance)
which was nearby and could be reached by the old path.
Wood End Road in Cranfield is visited by another spectre on horseback, this time a
woman by the name of Lady Snagge. Lady Elizabeth Snagge was married to
Thomas Snagge – a Member of Parliament and Attorney General for Ireland. The
legend states that Lady Snagge was riding down Wood End Road and was
decapitated by a rope which had been stretched across the road by thieves intent on
unseating riders. The bandits robbed her body of its jewels and finery and then fled.
Her ghost is often sensed riding down the lane past pedestrians who feel the cold air
generated by her presence swishing against them. She is also said to materialize
along the narrow lane. Sometimes the spirit is seen headless – befitting the manner
of her death – and at other times fully formed.
Dunstable has a number of haunted highways and byways. Buttercup Lane was the
setting for two men witnessing a strange apparition in 1969. As they were walking
they saw something wearing a big hat and gliding about eighteen inches off the
ground. Despite the hat there was nothing else to suggest that the shape was a
person – no arms, no legs. The thing was about eight to ten feet tall and changed
colour from white to black.
Church Walk was the setting for the strange demise of a loyal dog. A narrow footpath
running from Dunstable High Street towards Priory Church, Church Walk already had
sinister connotations due to its nickname of Corpse Walk due to coffins being taken
to Priory Church via the path. In the late 1940s a man was walking his dog along
Church Walk. The dog ran off and when the owner caught up with it it was rooted to
the spot growling and baring his teeth, yet there was no visible threat. Suddenly the
dog gave a yelp and ran back down the alley onto the High Street and unfortunately
ran straight in front of a passing car. It was never determined what had spooked the
dog; although it seems that the sight of something caused the poor creatures demise.
The A5 road towards Dunstable has been the setting for a number of reports
featuring a ghostly cricketer. The phantom has been seen standing by the side of the
road – and on one occasion the ghost actually stepped out in front of a car. This
spectre is linked to a coach crash in 1958 when two members of the Kenwood
Manufacturing Company cricket team were killed returning from a match at Milton
Mag Lane is situated near Hockliffe and is believed to be visited by a ghost of a
witch known as Headless Mag. Nobody knows when Mag lived, though some reports
say she occupied the lane early in the 20th century. Descriptions of Mag usually start
with her form rising up in a white mist then have her moving silently through the
shrubbery on the look-out for unwary pedestrians crossing her path.
A ghost of a girl haunts Drury Lane in Houghton Regis. Her spirit has been
appearing as far back as the 1930s. The girl is usually barefooted wearing a white
party dress.
Church Walk in Kempston runs near the River Great Ouse and it is because of this
stretch of water that a ghost haunts the path. Frequent sightings have been seen of a
green lady that seems to be gliding through the river mist. The sightings grew so
intense that various clubs refused to go to their meetings at the church in case they
ran into her. The death of a lady through drowning has been attributed as the cause
of this water-walking spectre. Various female spirits haunt another location in
Kempston, that of Ladies Walk. The aforementioned Lady Snagge has appeared in
this location as has a young girl mourning the death of her lover in the Civil War.
Most touching of these visitations are the spirits of two childhood friends who walk
hand in hand just as they did when they were alive.
Footpath Number 4 may not be the most inspiring of names for a haunted location
but this area has thrown up a number of interesting phantasms in its time. The
footpath runs between Common Road and Hollicks Lane in Kensworth. A Shuck has
been seen skulking around the path (for more information on Shucks see Chapter
One – Animals) although this particular devil dog only seems to have one eye. A
witch is also said to haunt this location, descriptions of her are slight although some
believe she is the same witch haunting the hamlet of Church End north of Kensworth.
This particular witch follows the path towards the church and angrily shakes her fist
at the holy building in retaliation for not being allowed into the church when she was
alive because of her occult leanings. The footpath's other spectre is a headless
milkmaid recognisable by a yoke and pails she carries. As with any ghost sighting
there are a number of explanations as to how she lost her head. Some say she was
attacked and murdered as she walked down the path, another that she was
decapitated in a farming accident, and, perhaps the most morbid, her lover cut off her
head so as part of her could remain with him forever!
Phantom Hitchhikers have very much become a part of urban myths. Bedfordshire
also has similar apparitions, with one of the better-known stories taking place in
Leighton Buzzard. The incident involved Roy Fulton who was driving his van where
Peddars Land becomes Station Road. Roy noticed a young man hitchhiking; he
pulled over and offered the man a lift. The hitchhiker was described as dark haired
with a pale and unusually long face. He got into Roy’s van and simply pointed ahead
when asked where he wanted to go. During the drive Roy turned to offer his guest a
cigarette only to discover that the man had vanished! Roy stopped the van and
searched the road. There was no sign of anyone. No other sightings of a
disappearing hitchhiker have been recorded for that particular stretch of road, thus
the whole escapade is a true mystery.
The strange occurrences associated with Millbrook's Woburn Road are so unlike
any other that they are well worth a mention. One night a mother and her child were
walking along the path when a pile of stones rose up in the air and proceeded to fly
about in all directions. Another night saw a man being followed by a strange light
which emerged from a hedgerow and then disappeared. The same hedgerow could
also have been another setting for a Shuck sighting – a woman saw a large black
shape leap over the hedgerow and land in the middle of the road without making a
Even a form of teleportation has been encountered at the spot. A man was climbing a
stile and suddenly found himself in Clophill, a locale some ten kilometres away!
A lane running north of Ravensden is the setting for an eerie encounter with a blackdraped crone. The elderly woman has been described as wearing a long dress or
cloak, and her face is alleged to be fixed in an expression of utter hatred, one that
never fails to startle those who encounter her. Some say that she is a spirit of an old
17th century witch who died of exposure on the roadside after being turned out of her
home. Witch or not, it is considered bad luck if you see her.
In 1997 a car was driving along Sandy’s Potton Road when a figure emerged from
the side of the road and proceeded to walk across it. With the sudden appearance of
this person the car had no time to stop, the occupants of the car prepared for the
worst but the car ended up passing through the figure. The spirit was described as a
headless skinny woman in modern clothes. The woman also had a small dog with
These are just a small number of the weird and wonderful road and lane encounters
which have been reported throughout the county. Such stories prove that locations
for ghostly appearances don’t necessarily have to be grand houses or ruined
churches; even the most banal of locations hold a hidden undercurrent.
Due to the random and unpredictable nature of many supernatural occurrences it is
not possible to neatly categorise all events worthy of note. This, the final chapter of
Bedfordshire Ghosts, deals with those numerous spirit encounters that have spilled
out from the main chapters.
Domestic dwellings are just as likely to be haunted as a grand Manor House as these
two examples from Bedfordshire prove.
Bailey Street in Luton is home to a series of flats in Dorset Court. A man was sitting
watching his television when he noticed a headless man appearing in the doorway.
The following day the man felt something splash him in the face – his wife, in some
distress, pointed out that his face was covered in blood, blood that was not his own.
This same blood then appeared all over the bathroom walls. The occupants decided
to arrange an exorcism to rid them of this problem. Despite these measures the
shock was too much for the couple and they moved out vowing never to return.
Tavistock Street in Bedford is home to another supposedly haunted flat. The flat has
been used as accommodation for the workers of a local brewery. Writing on the
windows of the flat apparently started to appear and furniture would move across the
floor. An employee who lived there twenty years ago reported coming home to the
empty flat only to find his records were being played. Many people in the flat have
reported feeling a strange atmosphere pervading the place. The flat used to have a
bicycle shop beneath it, a shop where the owner shot himself. Could this explain the
eeriness of the flat above?
A premises in Church Street in Ampthill was the setting for a most unlikely haunting
– that of a hairdressers. One customer saw the image of a hanged man in the
upstairs room. The owner called in an exorcist who seemed to have banished that
particular phantom, yet soon after a small boy was seen repeatedly by staff and
customers in the same upstairs location as the hanged man. Many have remarked
that this room is filled with a strange atmosphere and not the sort of place to be on
your own.
Most stories end with a resolution; however, in the case of Bedfordshire Ghosts you
are invited to draw your own conclusions. Whether you are a believer or a sceptic
hopefully these tales and legends of our county will have fascinated and amused.
King, William H. – Haunted Bedfordshire: A Critical Compendium. The Book Castle,
Dunstable, Bedfordshire, 2005
Matthews,Rupert – Haunted Places of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 2004
O’Dell, Damien – Ghostly Bedfordshire…Reinvestigated. A Haunted History. Egon
Publishers LTD, 2004
Puttick, Betty – Ghosts Of Bedfordshire. Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire,
Rose, Carol – Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopaedia of Folklore, Legend
and Myth. Oxford, England, 2000
Simpson, Jacqueline and Roud, Steve – A Dictionary of English Folkore.
Press, Oxford, 2000
Ward, Roger – The Ghosts and Tunnels of Chicksands Priory. R.W. Ward,
Bedfordshire, 1989
Newspaper articles and pamphlets in Bedford Central Library’s Local Studies
Page No.
Alma Cinema
Alston, Sir Rowland
Ampthill Castle
Aspects Leisure Park
Aspley Guise
Bailey Street, Luton
Bedford Arms Public House, Leighton Buzzard
Bedford Arms Public House, Toddington
Bedford Arms Public House, Woburn
Bedford Hospital
Bell Public House
Black Horse Public House
Black shuck
Black Tom
Brooks, John Thomas
Buckingham Arms Public House
Bullnose Bat Public House
Buttercup Lane, Dunstable
Carlton Hill
Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Museum
Chequers Inn Public House
Chicksands Priory
Church End, Kensworth
Church Street, Ampthill
Church Walk, Dunstable
Church Walk, Kempston
Cineworld, Bedford
Cineworld, Luton
Clapham Road, Bedford
Common Road, Kenworth
Cork and Bull Public House
Corpse Walk, Dunstable
Cross Public House
Cross Keys Public House
Crown Public House
8, 21
4, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, 20
12, 18
11, 18, 19
4, 19
Drury Lane, Houghton Regis
Dunstable Priory
Eastfields Corner
Fairfield Hospital
Falcon Inn Public House
Five Bell Public House
Flitwick Manor
Four Horseshoes Public House
Fox and Hounds Public House
Galley Hill
Galloping Dick
Golden Pheasant Public House
Great Lane, Clophill
Grey, Lady Elizabeth
Headless Mag
Headless spectres
High Street, Dunstable
Highway men
Hollicks Lane, Kenworth
Houghton Conquest
Houghton Regis
Houghton House
Kempston Manor
King’s Arms Public House
Knife and Cleaver
Knocking Knoll
Leighton Buzzard
Luton Museum and Art Gallery
Mag Lane, Hockliffe
Mendham, Sophia
New Bedford Road, Luton
Newnham Avenue, Bedford
Newnham Priory
Newnham Swimming Pool
Oakley Arms
O’Dell, Damien
Odell Castle
Old George Public House
4, 18
11, 15, 18, 19
4, 19
4, 8
9, 19
16, 19
4, 6, 14, 16, 21
5, 7
6, 10, 11, 16, 18, 19
Paull, Keith
Potton Road, Sandy
Priory Church, Dunstable
Regent Street, Bedford
Saint Luke’s Church
Saint Mary’s Church, Clophill
Saint Peter’s Street, Bedford
Sandhill Close, Millbrook
Snagge, Lady
Station Road, Millbrook
Station Road, Leighton Buzzard
Tavistock Street, Bedford
Thurleigh Airfield
Turpin, Dick
Union Street, Bedford
Victoria Public House
Ward, Roger
Waterside Mill
White Swan Public House
Woburn Abbey
Wood End Road, Cranfield
Woburn Road, Millbrook
14, 15
4, 17
5, 7
7, 21
19, 20
10, 17
© Bedfordshire Libraries
Researched by Daniel Stannard, 2006